I went and signed a few books in some Waterstones branches near me earlier this week. I think I signed the entire print-run of the hard backs, so I should be getting used to it, but I notice each shop I go to the first signiture is a bit wobbly, a bit apologetic, a bit ‘should I be allowed to do this?’ Which reminded of…
I share a publicist, Richard Foreman, with a very nice writer called Justin Pollard, and he got tickets for Richard and I to go to QI, on which he worked. I took a couple of hard-backs with me. One as a thank you to Justin, and the other to hand to Stephen Fry (if I got the chance). Now, I’ve loved SF since I was a kid. Made my parents get The Listener, because he had a column in it, I took Paperweight with me to Russia and James, Rowan and I used to read it aloud to each other while drinking cheap champagne in the Caucuses; I loved his books, I loved his persona, I thought he was a brilliant actor and now I was being ushered towards him after the show by a bright young production assistant in a head-set. Getting. Very. Nervous.
We went to say hello to Justin, and SF was standing right next to him. I shake when I get excited, nervy or just very anything emotionally. Proper tremors.
SF was standing with his back to the light, and is terribly tall. He said ‘hello’. By this time I’m shaking so hard I almost throw my wine over Richard. I proffered my book. He took it, he even looked pleased, then asked me to sign it for him. Bugger. I can’t hold a drink, let alone a pen. I didn’t even attempt a ‘To Stephen’, or a three word summary of how I admired him. I just tried to write my own name, but by this point I was trembling so hard, I’m fairly sure I misspelled that.
He took it from me very graciously, said something nice, then had to leave. Thank God for that, I’m fairly sure my teeth would have fallen out if he’d stayed any longer.
There was an up-side though. It was as if I’d got through me celebrity nerves for one night in a single gulp. After that I could, without having to clamp my hands behind me, chat to Rob Brydon (great bloke), get a drink from Johnny Vegas, who had taken over the bar (great barman), and have a chat with a very nice man who wrote scripts for Brookside. Wish I could remember his name, I hope he’s thriving somewhere. I even managed to go and have a smoke and chat about creativity with the legendary John Lloyd, producer of Not the Nine o’clock news, Blackadder, you know, generation defining classics like that.
Actually, I think I said something pretty fatuous to him in the end too, but hey, at least by that point I wasn’t shivering like someone in second stage pneumonia.
I hope I never meet George Clooney. My leg would fall off. And my apologies if you end up with one of the shaky, misspelled signatures, at least you know you’re in good company.